Here’s a salad recipe for anyone who’s looking for a non-leafy salad. This Freekeh and Pomegranate Salad mixed through with a sumac infused yoghurt is simply divine.
What Is Freekeh?
Freekeh is considered to be an ancient grain, originating from the Middle East. The word Freekeh is an Arabic word, which means “to rub”. There is a folk tale that tells the story of how the grain was created under unfortunate circumstances.
About 2000 years ago, a village was under attack and their crop was set on fire. The villagers rubbed off the outer layers which were burnt and cooked up the grain. And this is how freekeh came to be. Love a good story!
Is Freekeh Gluten Free?
Freekeh is harvested from durum or young wheat. It has a smoky and nutty taste and it is a cross between barley and brown rice. Many people in fact substitute their rice component for this ancient grain. Unfortunately, this does mean it’s not free of gluten.
Freekeh has made a popular resurgence in the cooking world partly due to its health benefits. It is high in fibre and low in fat as there is less than 1 gram of fat per serving. It also contains plenty of zinc and is high in iron.
Why I Love Barley
Barley made an appearance in my childhood on a very regular basis. But not for savoury dishes. My mother used to make barley drink with rock sugar and nashi pears. In fact, she still does, and my daughter loves it!
Barley is also used in a very well-known hot dessert soup with gingko nuts and bean curd skin. I’m sure it doesn’t sound so appealing but it’s a staple and so delicious. In Malaysia, despite the heat, I would still smash a bowl of this dessert. I’d be sweating and complaining but oh so worth it!
My first savoury encounter of barley was a hearty lamb shank and barley soup. I actually didn’t realise there was barley in it but when I discovered the soup was filled with it, I was so happy. So of course, the natural progression after that was to try lamb and barley stew. So good!
Fun Facts About Pomegranates
I love this fruit and whenever they are back in season, I always manage to find an excuse to make a salad with pomegranates. In our household, I usually deseed them and store it in the fridge so we always have it readily available. Quite often we eat it on its own, sometimes with yoghurt for breakfast or a quick sprinkle over any side for dinner.
At some point I wanted to find out more about this fruit because it wasn’t a fruit I grew up with in Asia. I was only really introduced to it when I moved to Australia. I found some really fun and cool facts about the humble pomegranate:
- In Latin, pomegranate means apple with many seeds.
- A pomegranate tree can thrive for about 200 years as found in France.
- Pomegranates are an ancient fruit mentioned on several occasions in the bible.
- A pomegranate tree can grow up to 10 metres high.
- A pomegranate tree grows in hot and dry climates.
- They are native to the Middle East.
- The pomegranate is a super fruit due to its health benefits.
- Some Jewish scholars believe the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
- Pomegranates are very high in antioxidants, about 3 times more than green tea.
- They have anti-tumour properties and are a good source of Vitamin C and potassium.
- There are many health benefits of which these are known to have made the list: good for the heart, assists with weight loss, prevention of cancer and diabetes and excellent for blood circulation, just to name a few!
- Even the ancient Egyptians used pomegranate for medicinal purposes.
- Pomegranates are symbols for many cultures. In Greek mythology, they symbolise life and rebirth whilst it symbolizes fruitfulness to the Jews as they consume pomegranates during the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana).
Why I Love Pomegranate, Barley and Freekeh Salad
I am not always in the mood for a leafy salad. Grain salads for me provide more of a supplement rather than a side to complement the main dish as it is quite a heavy salad. I look at it like a rice accompaniment.
Barley and freekeh make for a great match. To add some texture, I decided to add some sweet and tangy pomegranates with the crunch of toasted pine nuts and crushed peanuts to the salad recipe. But what binds it altogether and gives this freekeh salad massive flavour is the yoghurt dressing.
I could eat this salad forever!
How to Make Pomegranate, Barley and Freekeh Salad
How to Cook Barley and Freekeh
So, how do you cook freekeh?
Bring to boil 2 cups of water. Add the freekeh with some salt and boil it on medium heat for 40 minutes. When done, drain the freekeh and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. If you have bought cracked freekeh instead of whole freekeh, it will cook faster so only half the time required.
In another saucepan, bring to boil 2.5 cups of water. Add the pearl barley with some salt and boil on medium heat for 40 minutes. When done, drain the barley and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
How to Prepare the Rest of the Salad
Whilst these are boiling, you can prepare the other ingredients. With the pomegranate, I use the wooden spoon method to de-seed it. Cut the pomegranate in half. Stretch the flesh to loosen it up. Over a bowl, place the pomegranate face down on your palm. With a wooden spoon, knock on the back of the pomegranate and the seeds will fall through your fingers into the bowl.
For the celery stick, get rid of the leafy tops and slice it thinly in a diagonal manner.
Roughly chop the coriander to give you ½ cup.
Toast the pine nuts and crushed peanuts separately on a small fry pan. No oil is required. Just give it a good shake to even up the toasting process. It doesn’t take long so keep an eye on it. Set aside once they are golden brown.
Place all these ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Now, as you may know, pomegranate juice can stain so if you don’t want the white pearl barley to get a tinge of pink, drain the pomegranate juice before adding the seeds into the mixing bowl.
How to Make the Spiced Yoghurt Dressing
I absolutely love the combination of grains and yoghurt. The creamy consistency of the yoghurt folded through the freekeh and barley makes for a match made in heaven!
In a small mixing bowl, add the Greek yoghurt, honey, sumac, and cinnamon. Mix it well into the honey is completely enveloped by the yoghurt.
To add to the Middle Eastern theme, a touch of sumac infuses the yoghurt beautifully. This spice from the deep red berries of the sumac bush makes a regular appearance in my cooking. It gives it a slight tang and works well with the pomegranate.
How to Assemble the Salad
I’m not a fan of mixing the yoghurt though the salad ingredients. This salad requires a “build” assembly.
Place half the salad ingredients on a platter. Using half the yoghurt dressing, put dollops of yoghurt on the salad. Then add the remaining half of the salad on top and dress with the rest of the dressing.
If you prefer, you can place the yoghurt dressing in a bowl to the side for your guests to help themselves. I would make an extra half or full serve of the dressing though in case you have guests who love it so much they may help themselves to more than the salad needs! Trust me, this happened to me once, so make extra!
This is quite a heavy salad so if you have a heavy main, this serve could stretch out for 6 people if you have small eaters. You definitely won’t need a second side if you’re serving this freekeh and pomegranate salad. Enjoy our grain favourite! Let us know if you love it as much as we do!
More Vegetarian Salad Recipes:
- Cauliflower Rice Salad with Cannellini Beans
- Pear and Rocket Salad with Provoletta Blue Cheese
- Green Bean, Truffle Butter Breadcrumbs and Quail Egg Salad
- Radicchio, Baby Gem, Orange and Ruby Grapefruit Salad
- Parmesan Chipotle Corn Salad with Black Beans
Easy Salad Dressing Recipes:
Pomegranate, Barley and Freekeh Salad
- Bring 2 cups of water in a small saucepan to boil. Add the freekeh and some salt. Boil for 40 minutes on medium heat. Strain the freekeh in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
- In another small saucepan, bring 2.5 cups of water to boil. Add the barley. Boil for 40 minutes on medium heat. Strain the barley and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Whilst the freekeh and barley are cooking, de-seed pomegranate. Cut the pomegranate in half. Stretch the flesh to loosen it up. Over a bowl, place the pomegranate face down on your palm. With a wooden spoon, knock on the back of the pomegranate and the seeds will fall through your fingers into the bowl.
- Cut the tops of the celery. Slice diagonally into thin slices.
- Roughly chop the coriander to give you ½ cup.
- Dry toast the pine nuts on a small fry pan until golden brown.
- Then dry toast the crushed peanuts on the fry pan until golden brown.
- Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If you don’t want the barley to be stained in pink, be sure to drain the pomegranate as much as possible so the juices aren’t mixed into the salad.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Mix gently.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix the Greek yoghurt, honey, sumac, and cinnamon.
- Mix it well until the honey is well distributed throughout the yoghurt.
- Place half the mixed salad onto a serving platter. Add dollops of the yoghurt dressing on top of the salad.
- Add the remaining half of the salad and finish off the dressing on top. Serve.
- If you prefer, you can place the yoghurt dressing in a bowl on the side and your guests can help themselves. If you prefer this method, I would make an additional half a serve in case some of your guests are a little heavy handed.
- You can substitute barley with quinoa or buckwheat.
- If you’re not a fan of cinnamon, nutmeg makes for a great replacement.
- This is quite a heavy salad and can be eaten as a meal on its own.